November 19, 2010

Radcliffe embraces life beyond “Harry Potter”

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 3:42 am by dinaheng

The sweetness and light of an 11-year-old boy can still be seen in Daniel Radcliffe’s smile, but make no mistake, this is a 21-year-old man who wants the world to see him as an actor, and not just the character he has played for the last decade.

Radcliffe, known around the world for his portrayal of the boy wizard Harry Potter, has become a polished professional, polite in manner and ever-so-slightly guarded with the press. As he gives interviews for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” he’s quick to pick up on what reporters want to talk about.

“I’m pleased with this one,” says Radcliffe, at the end of a long day talking to press in London. “It’s rare for a large, mainstream film to have a gentle pace that allows you to explore the characters and their relationships. What’s made this franchise successful is that it’s a strong group of characters, and people want to know how they react to things.”

Clearly tired and thirsty, he looks for a bottle opener for his Coke as he talks, not wanting to interrupt the interview. When none is found, he focuses his attention back to the question at hand, putting his own needs to the side.

He talks about how playing a character has shaped who he has become, honing in on details that will never be forgotten.

“The first day of production was Sept. 29, 2000,” says Radcliffe, remembering the first scene he filmed for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” “We were on a train platform in Goathland (Hogsmeade Station in the movie), which is the most rural you can get in England. There were 100 to 150 extras, and they were all asking for my autograph.

“John Heyman came over and said, ‘Let me give you one piece of advice. Shorten your name, and just sign DR or something.’ I didn’t do it, and kept signing Daniel Radcliffe. Now I wish I had.”

He laughs at the memory, and goes on to credit director Chris Columbus for setting a tone on the set that made work so much fun.

“I remember Chris Columbus the best from the first film,” Radcliffe says. “He was a mountain of energy, and kept this set of kids infused with energy every day. It came from his love of making a film, and that rubbed off on me. The main contribution I’ve received from playing Harry is it’s given me direction in my life, and a love of films and filmmaking.”

Radcliffe says while he was always a curious student in school, he was never good at writing or many of the required subjects. When he started to act, he discovered a talent that gave him a sense of true confidence.

“The schools I went to were all white and privileged,” he recalls. “When you’re in the world of private education, all the kids have a similar view of life, and the right way to do things in life. The right way is to go through school, make all As, go to college, and get a job. So I was taken from that path, and it broadened my view of the world massively.”

With the “Harry Potter” films ending, the actor has branched out in other projects, making his Broadway and London West End debuts as Alan Strang in Peter Shaffer’s play “Equus.” He stars next in “The Woman in Black,” a horror thriller, and will return to Broadway next spring to star in the revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Radcliffe says he deliberately chose a variety of roles to prove that he was serious about the craft of acting beyond holding the title role in the “Harry Potter” franchise.

Ten years after shooting his first scene, he describes the last scenes in like manner.

“The last scene I filmed was the underwater sequence,” Radcliffe says. “The last scene shot as a group was Emma, Rupert and me jumping into the fireplace of the Ministry of Magic, running through frame and landing on a crash mat. That was it.

“The producers made short speeches, and I made a short speech. I gave a tribute to the crew. To go to work with people you love, and who love you, is what made it special for me every day. Everything I do for the rest of my life will be derived from having gotten this part at  age 11, so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the producers and those who chose me for this role.”

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